It was not my intentions to be on the road for this long. In fact, the initial haphazard plan of mine consisted of three months of traveling around the world. I went off on my own with very little investigation to where I was heading. Meaning, no hotels planned out, no returning fights. Just three one way tickets to Tokyo, then Dubai, and then Greece. I thought that was pretty adventurous, but my little plan was completely blown out of the water when I fully surrendered in September and allowed the universe take control. Don’t worry, I’ll explain below.
What occurred as a result? An additional 9 months were added to my itinerary. Road trips, cruises (my first), flying all around the United States, and a sweet trip through Central and South America. So with all the new cities, new friends, and long travel days, what did I gain in my year of travel? Probably more than I’m even conscious of, but here are the significant points that I keep returning to while reminiscing about each location.
Tokyo Taught Me To Let Go
The first stop on my whirlwind tour was Tokyo. I am grateful it was my first destination because while it’s massive, it reminded me of home. It’s a city with skyscrapers, public transportation, and multitudes of people walking to and from work. It was familiar.
However one thing I learned in Tokyo that I wouldn’t have gained in New York is the lesson to let the actual freak go of the baggage. You see, one day I had to haul my suitcase from one side of town to the other. It was a hot Spring day, the sun was beating down on the city, and I had two pieces (a backpack and roller suitcase) to carry with me. I knew it was either a simple straight shot of a walk or a crowded subway ride. I decided, let’s go for a walk.
About halfway through, I stopped and thought, “You know, this would be a lot more enjoyable if I wasn’t hauling all this luggage with me.” Which, you’ve guessed it, made me think of the emotional baggage/luggage/junk/past memories I was hauling with me everywhere I went. Wouldn’t life be more enjoyable if I were to let them go as well?
This concept stayed with me and fully realized in Panama, a year later.
Milan Taught Me To Embrace Strangers
I booked a hostel in Milan (Ostello Bello) that is known to be one of the best. Not because you’ll actually sleep well through the night, because you won’t. You won’t sleep at all, in fact. But because the community is phenomenal. People actually move to Milan to work at this hostel, it’s that good.
I remember getting there and at 10 am handed a beer while filling out my paperwork. That was the first indicator I was about to live my best italian life. The hostel had family style dinners each night, and full breakfast until 12 pm for those still hungover. If that wasn’t enough, there was a kitchen upstairs with leftovers and extra beer to congregate over at any point of the day. And congregate we did.
This was the moment I didn’t care what I saw as much as whom I saw it with. I met the most interesting people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We ate pasta and talked about Tomorrowland and Avicii, who just had passed days earlier. We went to bars and talked about the economics in each country we came from. We woke up (really never went to sleep) at 6 am to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper because that’s the only way to get tickets for 10 euros and without a reservation. By the way tickets are booked 9 months in advance, in case you don’t want to risk it like us.
It was over croissants, after viewing The Last Supper, that my new friend looked me in the eyes and said, “You know you have the best colleges in the world, but the amount the US charges for schooling should be illegal.” I laughed and said, I am well aware.
Do I remember every museum I’ve toured or monument I’ve seen? No. But I remember the stories shared, the feelings attached, and the wisdom passed along the way. Embrace those who come in, they may leave more of an impression than anything else.
Copenhagen Taught What Progression Looks Like
I am part Danish, I’ve been to Copenhagen before, it’s a place I love. If you ever get the chance to visit, do it without hesitation. In one respect, it feels like living in a glorious fairy tale. Think swans and roses at ever turn. I’m not kidding. On the flip side, their way of living is incredibly progressive and expanded my mind of what’s possible.
To start, they have a less than emphatic attitude on marriage and divorce. It’s not a costly event that will put you in debt. Rather than an Instagram worthy reception, you can go to the City Hall get married quietly with friends and family and then eat delicious danish pancakes. Divorce is celebrated with the idea of , “I am glad you tried it! Even happier that you’re moving on from something that no longer works.” You can get divorced online, you guys. You pay a $60 fee, and can be divorced by the end of the week. Less stress is what the Danes strive for.
The real clincher was when I met a woman my age who started her own business. She informed me that the Danish government will pay you a year salary if you are starting a new business in Denmark. Of course you have to apply, have a business plan, and most likely backers. But come on! A full year salary. This is progressive thinking.
New York City Taught Me To Keep Moving
My actual home of 12 years belongs on the list, because while I had a permanent address there, and all my belongings are still residing in the city, it was a city I visited the most and had the largest impact in the last year. Returning from my trip, I was welcomed back with the unnerving realization that my personal life was unraveling at the seams. I’ve wrote a few articles on this already, so I will spare the details. What needs to be mentioned in case you are new here, is I went through a breakup of all breakups. The motherload of breakups, the ugliest, craziest, wildest, like is-this-actually-happening, breakup. I laugh now as I type this, but back when it was happening, it felt like someone had kicked me in the gut.
Here’s the thing about New York, there are teachers everywhere you turn who will remind you to keep moving. I was sitting one night in Union Square, my all time favorite spot in the city, when someone sat down next to me. He asked, “Are you spiritual?” I said, sure. He said, “Okay you need to read these books then,” and proceeded to bring me to Barnes & Noble to hand me three books that changed his life. This led me to more literature, that led me to more realizations, that led me to healing from a 9 year relationship at lightning speed.
There are times to feel and review, but don’t get stuck there. Keep it moving and keep enjoying each moment life hands you. Whatever you are currently facing, there are teachers out there willing to help along the way, allow them in. Allow yourself to find joy and comedy in the tragedy, it’s all based on perspective. Keep. Moving. Forward.
Needless to say, with nothing and no one holding me in New York City, I decided to keep moving myself. I said yes to more travel which in turn, yep, led to more lessons.
Panama Canal Taught Me Forgiveness
I’ll leave you with this last lesson. That is on the art of forgiveness, something I learned during the 8 hour voyage through the Panama Canal. Remember how I mentioned in Tokyo I was hit with the epiphany that life would be much more enjoyable without all the emotional gunk being hauled around? Well turns out, forgiveness is the only way to release it.
With 15 days at sea, and an 8 hour gap of seeing pretty much the same thing over and over again, I figured what better time than now to dive head first into forgiving the people who had hurt me the most. Sounds enjoyable, huh? If you’ve never read a word from Louise Hay (the Goddess of Self-Help), please do yourself a favor and read this book. It is the closest thing to a life manual I have ever found. In the book, there are a series of exercises on forgiveness. I did those exercises with everything I got. Full force, fother mucker.
The message that helped the most was that forgiveness isn’t condoning their behavior, it’s letting go of what happened so you can feel free. Why hold onto something so painful that happened years ago, or even days ago?
What I learned is, to forgive is finding compassion for yourself and those who harmed you. Yes. Compassion for the sick who are hurting themselves. Hurting so badly that they need to hurt others. Compassion for yourself for holding onto pain and shame that was never meant for you to hold onto. And forgiving yourself for trying to protect your heart from ever having to deal with that kind of hurt again.
When I was done with each exercise, and I felt in my heart it was complete, I was exhausted to the core. Yet I felt an immense sense of relief knowing I no longer need to go back and retell those stories. The heaviness lifted.
Believe me, if I can do this, so can you.
I want to hear from you in the comments, what lesson spoke to you the most? Or let me know what you have learned from traveling!